Saturday, April 14, 2012

Innocence, Love, Tragic Losses, and Sweetness Found: Part 1 of 2

The true story of a young man and his family told from my perspective. I may quote from his BLOG for accuracy at times.

[Note the details are as I remember them and have been researched to the best of my ability. I am publishing this with his permission for my use]

Summertime is one of the periods of time during the year that I look forward to working as a Chaplain in an academic setting. We have a training program that is required for graduation of many theological institutions and religious groups. The name of the training is Clinical Pastoral Education; insiders refer to the program as CPE. The first day of the academic summer is always filled with anxiety of the unknown for the 10-12 new students who will be there fulltime for 10 weeks. The staff Chaplains do our best to relieve that tension as we begin see who may be seemingly more self reliant, more timid, more assured etc. Each of them are assigned an academic supervisor as well as having the opportunity to seek us out the staff as mentors.

Where I work we have a house-pager that is in the hands of an in-house Chaplain 24-7 for needs and emergencies. From 5:30PM to 8:30AM there is only one Chaplain to respond to pages. That Chaplain is responsible for all calls within the 600 bed inpatients if at capacity as well as the Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital 100 beds. They are also responsible for coverage in the emergency room and trauma center. Often it is a matter of triaging the calls as they come in. Being called to the bedside of someone at the end of his or her life would take priority over someone who wanted information. A trauma in the trauma center with family in the waiting area would take priority over a person who needed a listening ear. ALL of those are important but for one Chaplain alone, it is a matter of prioritizing each call and need. Every call will be responded to. We keep a call-log where the Chaplain records every page, the time, the person’s name why the Chaplain was called, and if need be for the daytime staff a recommendation for follow-up.

When I was doing my clinical training I remember thinking to myself that if I got two contiguous hours of sleep in that 15 hour period of time I was all right!

With that background let me begin a few days before June 7th, 2007.

The new summer C.P.E. students had come with great enthusiasm and trepidation. This was as I had said appropriate for a new experience. Many hadn’t ever been in a hospital no less visited people who are vulnerable and seeking council or a listening ear.

One of the students I remember standing out in those first few days was Adam. Adam stood out I recall as being one of the group “geeks”. I remember him talking about how he blogged. I wasn’t sure what I thought at the time about online publishing for anyone to read personal thoughts. How funny to me now that here I am doing just the same.

I refer to his blog of his first overnight on-call to begin his story.

            If I had to pick a phrase to describe my first 24hr on-call experience, it would probably be trial by fire. When I walked into the Pastoral Care Office today, one of the staff chaplains was reading through the log-book. When I walked in, she stopped, looked up at me and said, “Are you okay? Do you need a hug?”

That she is me.

That was a horrific night for many who came to our hospital Level One Trauma Center and multi-facility hospital. Even now when I read his blog post I feel my stomach tense knowing what that night might have been like for Adam and those he visited.

I once again refer to his blog :

One of those [calls] was for a young couple who were going to have to deliver a 22 week still-birth. I met with the couple both before and after the delivery and gave a blessing over the baby’s body once it was delivered.

Remember last week I spoke of paradox? Whenever I experienced a night like he described I would drive home grateful that although I didn’t sleep all night these calls were not for my family. I was grateful I was able to stand with those suffering with the gratitude that once I had a chance to eat and sleep and my life would move forward. I was not the one whose life was turned upside down.

Summer after summer we have 10-12 students come for training and then they leave to go the next phase of their life. Because there are so many students who pass through this program during the summer and extended fall-winter-spring sessions it is rare to stay in contact with many.

Because I always read Adam’s blog I had the sense that I was staying in touch with him. I knew about his wife, his adorable dog etc. It is an interesting phenomenon to communicate and yet not really be communicating.

At one point Adam had asked to speak with me about some concerns he had regarding decisions he was making in his ministry path; he wanted to know my opinions, and my theological reasons for decisions I had made. I used a new technology to me, SKYPE. Adam was in California at the time so we used video conferencing.

As the years moved forward I read in his blog about the struggles he had and was so amazed to watch his tenacity of standing for what he believed at the same time respectfully listening to others council. From my perspective as a mentor these were important signs that he would one day become a well-rounded, grounded and respected faith leader. His life seemed to me to be one that was common for most young faith-leaders to-be. His life was filled with study, reflection, hope as well as great joy. He had his amazing wife beside him as well as great friends and family.

It was at during the last week of June 2010, if my math is correct, that Adam and his wife began a journey that would forever change their lives. They became pregnant. For me even at this distance I found myself joy filled for them. Their ministry paths were becoming clear and now their family was going to add a baby. There it was, on Adam’s blog… he was going to be a DAD!

[part 2 next week]

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